Half-way home in the Bronx….

iStock_000011532833XSmallThis is one of those Strumings that non-Yankees fans quickly delete. But for Yankees fans, who the “cream” of Strumings readers, this is important reading. We are now virtually half-way home in the 2011 regular season (actually as of this date the Yankees have played 77 games, 4 shy of the half way mark). What have we learned?

First of all, the Yankees have rebounded well from the spanking by the Red Sox in May and earlier in June. I was there for two of the games.  Ugh. As of today, the Yankees are in first place,  1-1/2 games ahead of the Bosox–All good there. But as of this moment, and it may change, the Red Sox may have a team able to compete more successfully in October than the Yankees—words I do not like saying. In fact I heard Brian Cashman say as much to a small audience of Yankees fans in January at a WFAN event before the season began and it’s his job to make sure that’s not so.

It’s too easy to say that injuries have hurt. Of course they have—for the Yankees, and for other teams as well. But injuries largely even out in the long run and it’s the job of managment to have “Plan B”. Looking at the line-up, some of the starters are having a sub-par years when compared to their historical performance, notably Jeter (before he went on the DL), A-Rod (though he’s gaining some steam), Jorge, Cano, and Swisher. Teixeira is having a good year with RBIs and homers aplenty–but his batting average is still weak. Granderson, is having a very strong season and I suspect that will continue. One could reasonably say that Jorge’s, Jeter’s and maybe even A-Rod’s declines are caused by increased age. Certainly that may be a partial cause. But since the Yankees lead the majors in homers, have 4 players at a 100+ RBI pace, and are in first place,  you can’t fault the hitting too badly.

On the starting pitching side of the ledger, Hughes, an 18-game winner in 2010, has been absent and may be back shortly–he pitches in Trenton today–but we’ll see. Colon had given the Yankees far more than they could have expected and he may be back very soon. But how much we can expect from Colon when he returns from the DL is questionable. Older pitchers have injuries. Burnett has been far better but is still inconsistent, yet not a disaster as he was in 2010. Nova is up and down as you might expect from any young pitcher. He looks like a back of the rotation pitcher at best. Gordon was a nice feel good story for a week, but Aaron Small redux he’s not.

Alas, the bullpen, once a strength, is a problem. Here injuries have taken a toll—Joba, Felicano and Soriano are out. If healthy they would have combined for 150+ appearances in the year. We may see none from this trio for the balance of year. Mo is still Mo (thank god), Robertson has been terrific,  but getting to them with the lead may become increasingly difficult. CC can pitch 7+ innings, negating the need for many relievers when he pitches, but who else can?

But pitching has ironically been strong overall to date through the first half.

What are the Yankees to do as they enter the second half? They should do little other than tinker. That doesn’t mean they don’t need more relievers, or another starter, or a big stick. They could use them all. But I think the Yankees should hold their breath and not trade away their top young talent, and wait for the emergence of what has become a terrific farm system. Catchers Montero and Romine, and pitchers Banuelos and Betances are future Yankees, and perhaps some of them will be future stars. The Yankees are no longer 100% reliant on free agents to restock, and that’s good. The Yankees will also be aggressive in signing the right free agent in the off-season but that won’t  fix any 2011 woes.

Maybe the gods will shine on the Yankees again, I pray. But I am concerned that the Yankees, again as they are currently constituted, may not be built for October success. The Yankees are half-way home, in first place at the moment, and on a pace to win 95 games. Not too shabby. Perhaps with some fine tuning, they could win Championship #28. But the Yankees would need strong  pitching in October to do so. We’ll see….

PS: Have I ever told Strumings readers how much I love the Phillies–through this Thursday

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